Tag Archives: 1960s

Student Activism in the 1960s and 1970s

Most people my age nowadays don’t give a horse’s patootie about politics, human rights, justice, activism, or change.  In my research I’m really interested in understanding what inspired/fueled the social and political movements of the counterculture (’65ish-’75ish), and what led to its demise.

Here’s what I’ve been into lately for my research:

While the first two chapters elaborate on the, economic, social, and legal motivations for youth activism in the 1960s, the third chapter focuses on college campuses where much of the fervent radicalism sprung forth. 

But before I share a segment, you should check out the “documentary” Chicago 10, which combines archival footage, animation, and music examining the 1968 Democratic National Convention and the subsequent trial.  You can rent the film from Netflix and read more info from the wiki page.  Here’s a clip:

Here is a selection from Chalmer’s book, in which he describes the extent of youth activism during the counterculture, as well as the violent repercussions of their actions.  I’ve included some links for more information:

“Students and recent graduates from more than two hundred colleges and universities – public, private, and parochial – took part int he 1964 Mississippi Freedom Summer.  Swarthmore College students were arrested in Chester, PA; and University of Florida Students went to jail in St. Augustine.  Penn State had its Committee for Student Freedom; a Campus Freedom Democratic Party was organized at the University of Nebraska; and University of Texas students campaigned to desegregate college bathrooms, with the slogan “Let my people go.”  During 1964-1965, there were some kind of protest on a majority of the nation’s four-year campuses.

Vietnam and the draft changed the pattern and intensified the conflict.  Militancy increased on Southern black campuses.  Police and National Guardsmen shot students at South Carolina State, Jackson State, and North Carolina A & T. 

Black student occupied administrative offices at Chicago, Brandeis, and dozens of other colleges, and brought rifles into the Willard Straight Union at Cornell.  At numerous colleges, students sat in against military recruiting and napalm’s manufacturer, Dow Chemical.  Campus ROTC buildings were set on fire.  University officials were help hostage at Connecticut’s Trinity College and at San Fernando State, as well as at Columbia University. 

In the final year of the decade, bombing threats ran into the thousands.  People were injured in explosions at Pomona College, San Francisco State, and Santa Barbara, and a graduate student was killed by a bomb at the University of Wiconsin…The National Guard…was called on more than two hundred times in civil disorders on American campuses.” (72-73)

When Nixon sent troops to Cambodia, violence on college campuses escalated:

“The burst of anger on the campuses became an explosion when National Guardsmen fired into a crowd, killing four students and wounding others at Ohio’s Kent State University.  Ten days later, in an unrelated incident, police fired into a women’s dormitory at Mississippi’s black Jackson State University and killed two more. 

 There were strikes and protests on nearly one-third of the nation’s twenty-five hundred colleges and universities, and tens of thousands of student protestors converged on Washington to gather around the White House and the Lincoln Memorial.”  (77)

As a result of all this student outrage, President Nixon appointed a Commission on Campus Unrest.  Where has all this passion gone?

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Women and Divorce – the 1950s and 1960s

The 1950s are heralded as a time of the perfect American family – when men were men and women were women, when mothers stayed home with the children and parents didn’t divorce.  But alas gentle Americans – Leave it to Beaver was not a documentary.  Many unhappy couples simply didn’t get divorced due to societal pressure, and very few women could afford a divorce and often times women were denied or forced to jump through a series of hoops over months.

Here’s a University of Maryland graph on divorce rates between 1950 and 1999.  Since 2000 divorce rates have continued to fall because people are marrying less.

This is a fascinating feature story from NPR on a group of Nevada women in the 1950s and 60s who, when denied for a divorce, stayed at the “divorce ranch” to declare residency.  It’s a little complicated.  Here are the fascinating points about this story:

1) This story reveals a hidden female world of women working together to overturn the patriarchy.

2) It challenges our nostalgia for the myth of the perfect 1950s America: divorce, adultery, and unhappy marriages

Another interesting factoid – in 2008 Zooey Deschanel and Chloe Sevigny were onboard to star in a comedic film about the Nevada divorce ranch.  However, sadly, since then the film as been scratched.

Here are portions of the article “Sisters Tell Tales From the ‘Divorce Ranch'” from NPR.  Listen to the story or read it in its entirety here.


Courtesy Beth Ward Soon-to-be divorcees visit cocktail hour at Whitney Ranch. Beth Ward is at center, wearing an off-the-shoulder dress.

Beth Ward and her sister, Robbie McBride, grew up on what was known as a “divorce ranch” in Reno. Women who were denied the right to divorce could live in these hotels to establish residency, then file for divorce in a Nevada court.

In the 1950s and ’60s, Ward and McBride lived on their family’s Whitney Ranch, whose customers were mainly women from New York and New Jersey who had headed West for what was known as “the Reno cure.” Nevada had passed a law in 1931 that made it the quickest state in which to get a divorce — just six weeks, the time to establish residency.

“At the end of their six weeks, mother would go to court with them and testify that they’d been a resident at the ranch and she had seen them every day,” says Robbie McBride.

And as Ward remembers, it was a duty that their mother took seriously.

“Many of them said, ‘Well, you can just testify that I was here the last two weeks,'” she says. “But she’d say, ‘Oh no. Oh no.'”

“Mother liked to have things nice and smooth, and no fussing and fuming,” McBride says.

“…most of the people who came there, they wanted a divorce, so it wasn’t an unhappy time for them,” Ward says. “They just thought it was great that there was someplace they could come to get one.”

And as for life after divorce, McBride says, “An awful lot of them had plans for after their six weeks.”

Some of the women even brought along the people they were making those plans with: men who were often referred to as cousins.

“They had somebody in the other room, waiting to walk down the aisle with,” Ward says. “And six weeks later, of course, they were married.”


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